Friday, September 25, 2009

The NJ Transit Mess In the Meadowlands

This week U2 is holding concerts at Giants Stadium, with 80,000 fans. NJ Transit was running train service from the Meadowlands to Secaucus as it has since the beginning of July for major events.

When I attended the AC/DC concert in July, I didn't find any serious problems, and that NJ Transit had staff throughout Secaucus and at the Meadowlands stop to direct traffic. The size of that crowd, however, didn't compare with the U2 crowd, or the demand on NJ Transit services after the concert.

The problem is that the crowds after U2 overwhelmed the train service (HT: Mrs. Lawhawk).
A spokeswoman for NJ Transit said the service is able to transport up to 10,000 riders per hour, and that NJ Transit couldn’t have predicted that 20,000 would try to take the service to the concert, which drew 80,000.

“We had about 20,000 people,” going to the concert, compared to the 7,000 to 8,000 customers taking the rail service to football games, said Penny Bassett-Hackett, agency spokeswoman. “We experienced record crowds.”

Bruce Springsteen starts a set of shows at Giants Stadium next Wednesday and similar crowds are expected.

The new line operates between Hoboken Terminal and Meadowlands Station for major Meadowlands events, making one stop at Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Transfer Station in Secaucus. It began service in late July, providing service to the Gold Cup Soccer game, Jets and Giants games, said Bassett-Hackett.

For Wednesday’s U2 concert, trains started at 3:20 p.m. for the 7 p.m. concert. Bassett-Hackett said a six-car train could accommodate up to 800 people, and that the service can accommodate 10,000 riders an hour.
Secaucus can handle 8 and 10 car trains, and yet they're running trains with less capacity. Instead of getting more people out and back in less time, they're hoping to do more with less and that directly affects the customer experience. If they ran a 10-car train instead, they could move 1,300 per train, and 16,250 per hour, which would be more than sufficient to get nearly everyone out of the Meadowlands in an hour, which is far more important for those hoping to make connections to the Northern New Jersey lines.

Moreover, many people who were relying on trains taking them home on the Bergen and Pascack Valley lines were out of luck because they got to Secaucus long after the last trains home departed for the night.

That's precisely the mess I said would haunt the system from the outset. I warned that unless NJ Transit provides more rail service later at night, they'd run into problems - both with customers being stranded and many others simply opting not to use mass transit because it is far too inconvenient.

NJ Transit will have to respond with more cars for service to and from Secaucus, but they'll have to add additional service on the Bergen, Main, and Pascack Valley lines if they want to get people out of their cars and onto mass transit to reduce traffic.

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